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PoliticsAugust 5, 2020

Election 2020 and The Spinoff


Here’s what we have planned for the weeks to come.

A month from today, on Saturday September 5, voting begins in the general election of 2020. Election day itself isn’t for another fortnight, on September 19, but if the trends of recent times is a guide, more than half of all votes will be cast by the time the 19th rolls around. Which means that the parties and candidates – and the proponents on either side of the two referendums being conducted alongside the main event – will hit full noise within just a few weeks.

At The Spinoff, we’re champing at the bit. It’s the third election of the site’s short life. In 2014, the coverage consisted chiefly of a couple of posts that chronicled the televised debates in the form of – and this carbon dates things a bit – Vines. In 2017, we went up a gear, and in 2020 you’ll probably end up asking us to calm the bejesus down. For the first time, we go into an election with a full-time political editor, in the form of Justin Giovnnetti, who has had a smashing start at the parliamentary press gallery, where he has undergone the important initiation ceremonies such as interviewing the prime minister, watching the director general of health play rugby, and getting colourfully and bewilderingly denounced by Winston Peters.

(Important aside: We were able to make our first parliamentary journalist appointment only because of donations from Spinoff Members. Without Members’ support we wouldn’t be able to take on half the things we’ll be doing this campaign. Unending thanks to those who are on board; to everyone else, if you’re able to, please consider supporting our journalism by joining Spinoff Members.)

Here’s a quick preview of what’s to come.

Election Live

As of today, our Live Updates feature magically metamorphoses into Election Live. With Stewart Sowman-Lund at the wheel, this will continue to deliver the essential information, separating the crucial from the clutter of headlines and setting it in context. If it works as we intend it to, this will be an always-open tab for you throughout the campaign.


We’re very, very happy to say that Policy will be back. The brainchild of an intimidatingly clever and conscientious young team in Wellington, Policy first appeared ahead of the 2017 election, offering prospective voters the chance to compare and contrast party pledges, presented in crisp, waffle-free summaries across the policy board. Last year it returned in local-election form. This time there are a few extra bells and whistles. We’ll have more to say on this early next week, but suffice to say we see it as an absolutely critical part our coverage: a backbone of scrupulous, non-partisan policy information.

(If you’re standing in an electorate and not yet in communications with the Policy team, drop them a line immediately at

The Bulletin on the Road

Alex Braae is packing his things even as we speak (and by things I mean five different dressing gowns) and will be on the road, travelling around the country and taking the pulse. If you failed to read to the end of The Bulletin yesterday, you missed Alex saying this:

“I’ll be taking The Bulletin on the road over the next five weeks, going to events outside the main centres, meeting some of the politicians you hear a bit less from, and generally just asking people what they reckon about stuff. It’s all made possible thanks to a Cabana van from Jucy, and some generous support from Z Energy as well. I want to know from you where I should go – I especially love election debates so if your town has got any coming up I should head to, email and I’ll try make it along.”

The referendums

Party-political headlines and the all-encompassing force of the Covid crisis have meant there’s been relatively little coverage of the other ticks up for grabs next month: referendums on legalising cannabis and assisted dying.

We’ll have ongoing coverage of both, but to kick things off Alice Neville and Alex Braae have compiled exhaustive explainers, in which they attempt to answer any question you might throw at them. Here is everything you need to know about the assisted dying referendum. And here’s everything you need to know about the cannabis referendum.

Youth Wings

This week we record a youth wings debate – the finale of a web series, directed by Eddy Fifield, that follows leaders of the young branches of the five parties of parliament as they gear up for the election. It’s entertaining, serious and silly and we can’t wait to share it with you. (With thanks to NZ on Air.)

Audiovisual witchcraft

After more than three years of blather incisive discussion, the Gone By Lunchtime podcast (featuring me, Annabelle Lee-Mather and Ben Thomas) is inexplicably rating so highly on the top NZ podcasts charts that I fear people will be expecting a true-crime to happen any moment. Take us to No 1 and we’ll arrange something. Running weekly to the election.

José Barbosa joins the editorial team to perform his video magic. Toby Morris will fire up his political paintbrush.


Still the core of everything. There will be oodles of commentary. Laura O’Connell Rapira and Ben Thomas are both on board to write weekly columns. The one and only Madeleine Chapman has begun Memebers of Parliament, a weekly meme-based special to end us all.

We’ll have interviews with party leaders, beginning later this week with Leonie Hayden talking to the Greens’ Marama Davidson. There will be extensive election coverage from south Auckland, where there are a bunch of fascinating stories on the boil, thanks to our brilliant new recruit and South Auckland editor Justin Latif. In our series Last on the List – under way already here – we invite contributions from candidates who are, like it says on the tin, last on the list.

Plus: policy explainers, campaign features, and much compostable humour.

Election night

Dunno, what do you think we should do?

Keep going!